From a makeshift studio in Palatka, 10 tiny fingers with Tic Tac-sized nails danced around the presser foot of a black Bernette sewing machine, quickly turning knobs, inching fabric and ripping threads.
These busy hands belong to Lily Tallerico, a 9-year-old fashion designer who will debut her first line of dresses Saturday at the second annual Fashion for Freedom runway show in downtown Gainesville.
The show will be from 6 to 9 p.m. in the clothing boutique Ingenue Avenue at 201 SE Second Ave. Tickets are available for $10.
Lily added the final stitches to the last dress in her eight-piece collection Monday as her mother watched quietly through a rainbow of tulle.
Jennifer Tallerico said she has watched her daughter sew little things here and there since she was 7, but the designing took off when Lily’s grandfather bought her a sewing machine and one hour of sewing lessons for Christmas.
First came the pillows, she said.
“She must have made about 17,000 pillows for the house,” Tallerico said. “Any time anyone would come by the house, Lily would run upstairs and come back down with a pillow for them to take home.”
Tallerico said if Lily needs something she does not have, she will find a way to make it. Some of Lily’s recent impromptu projects included making a yoga mat for her American Girl doll just before an exercise class and a last-minute tea party dress when she was not happy with anything in her closet.
“She’s been like this since she was a baby,” Tallerico said. “She’s just never really been into going crazy like other kids, never been into boys. She kind of just sticks to what she wants to do and that’s it.”
Lily said her teacher wanted to throw a Greek festival for her class earlier this year, and when no one had a costume, she raised her hand.
“I said I have a sewing machine and I could probably make some,” Lily said. “So then, I had to make 18 costumes.”
She dyed the fabrics and made the 18 dresses in about one week, she said.
It was not until being invited to design for the Fashion for Freedom runway show that Lily began her first fashion line, which she has been preparing for three months.
Carla Coultas, a local designer and friend of Lily’s mother, started the runway show last year to raise money to combat sexual slavery in India.
When Coultas learned about Lily’s talents, she invited her to open the event with her new line of children’s dresses.
Coultas said all profits will be donated to Project Rescue, an organization aimed to fight sexual slavery of women and children. The event raised about $500 last year.
H. Raven Rose works at Ingenue Avenue, and this will be her second year helping to host the event.
“I think it’s so inspiring,” Rose said of Lily’s work being featured in this year’s show. “I think it’s a sign of the times that younger and younger people are stepping into authentic creative power. It’s really energizing.”